I had been brainstorming this cake for Nikolasha’s fifth birthday for about six months. Little by little, detail after detail, I had been putting together a picture of it in the long evening hours at work, trying to come up with a treat that reflected all of the things she cared for at that point in her life: merry-go-rounds, ponies, chocolate, candy, and balloons.
It all came together just weeks before her birthday when a friend at work mentioned in passing that her sister made the most delicious pig licking cake. The name immediately grabbed my attention because it sounded kind of funny, a bit nostalgic, and a whole lot childlike. I finally had a clear picture of a beautiful, vintage-inspired, pastel-hued carrousel cake where shiny horses molded out of dark, milk, and white chocolate would be galloping around on a platform of orange-flavored yellow cake that was slathered with pineapple-studded dabs of cool whip frosting.
Moist. Fluffy. Refreshing.
It all came together even more when Mom came and brought a musical candle for it. Without knowing what I had in mind, she couldn’t have made a better choice to top the carrousel dome that would be adorned with pale yellow butter frosting rosettes, each showcasing a pink sugar pearl in the center.
Pastel pink, the candle looked like a closed flower with 8 candle-tipped petals that were supposed to open up once lit up. It was a plan come true. I was jumping up and down for joy while Mom was apologizing profusely that she had been unable to locate a candle just like that but with only 5 petals.
That didn’t bother me as much as serving a cake with a pronounced tropical flavor in the middle of my beloved autumn. I had to do some more brainstorming. Since the recipe called for a can of mandarin oranges for the batter, I thought it might be nice to serve some tangerines or clementines alongside the cake. I totally associate both with the colder months of the year.
I got the last but one bag of tangerines at Publix, gave mental thanks to Lord, and found myself smiling ear to ear at a sales clerk when paying for them. The fruit turned out to be on the tart side, but I quickly came up with a fix for that. I visualized serving them carved into open flowers with a generous dollop of the same cool whip frosting that would be used for the cake in the middle.
Things were falling into place very nicely. Maybe too nicely if you ask me. Was a bummer or two in store for me as we were moving closer to Nicole’s birthday without any particular date set or plan made for a party but with a clear picture of thoroughly-brainstormed-and-content-with birthday cake and dessert bar that stayed within the season’s boundaries?
So, party or no party? That was the question a mere two weeks before the big day. Somehow I always have to know what kind of cake I am going to serve on such a big day first, leaving everything else to take care of itself at the last minute.
“Nicole, sweetheart, do you want to have a party for your birthday or do you want to go away?” I finally plucked up enough courage to pop the question.
“Let’s go away, Mommy.”
I didn’t’ know if I was more in shock or in raptures. Things kept falling into place.
There would be no party with all the underlying ramifications. I almost choked on a lump in my throat. Nicole was big enough to make her own choices, choices that I approved of.
The next day Kevin suggested Disney World, the Magic Kingdom, to be specific.
“Goody-goody,” I thought. “Just the kind of place for the young and the young at heart.”
Babushka was automatically coming along and not only for the fun of it. My mom’s and my daughter’s birthdays happen to be just a week apart, so it seemed completely natural to treat them both to the trip. It was hard to say who tossed and turned more the night before a 5AM departure in anticipation of meeting up with the most famous fairy tale and cartoon characters.
Kevin mostly makes choices that I approve of as well. He couldn’t have come up with a better destination to contribute to the nostalgic feel I wanted for Nicole’s fifth. Kids grow up so fast these days. I wanted so slow down time for the weekend and let her be, and enjoy, what she is best at 5—her sweet, innocent, silly, messy self.
I wanted her to take as many rides on the Regal Carrousel as she wanted to. Even if it were the only ride she would be doing until the park closed, I would be the happiest mama alive and wouldn’t push her to try out a roller coaster.
I wanted her to have the biggest ice cream sundae she could build in an ice cream parlor. Even if she licked off just the top of it and dripped the rest all over her new dress and flat-heeled Mary Janes, I would bite my tongue a few times before commenting and hand her a napkin.
I wanted her to get not one but a bundle of balloons. Even if she whined for a dozen of 10-dollar-each Disney balloons for her souvenir and let them go at the first gust of wind, I would still try to smile and wave goodbye to them as well as the money.
I wanted her to come up and say hi or stand back and wave to all her favorite princesses, take a peek inside Cinderella Castle, and soar into the skies with Dumbo, the very first Disney cartoon that she watched and fell in love with. See! You can learn how to fly if you keep on trying.
I wanted her to stop and watch in awe a street artist cutting out another little girl’s silhouette portrait and then ask him to do one of her.
And this is pretty much how it happened minus the balloons that she didn’t care much for and her silhouette portrait session that I was watching in awe while Nicole was bobbing on her chair for two whole minutes it lasted.
Magical. Nostalgic. Naïve.
Between a surprise ice-cream party at Nicole’s school, a family gathering, and a weekend in Orlando, we wound up a week’s worth of celebrations with a small-scale fireworks show in our backyard, the leftovers from our bummer of a 4th of July party, and the leftover pig licking carrousel cake.
Speaking of which . . .
Despite six months of planning, designing, and brainstorming, I still managed to overlook a detail that would’ve made this cake truly retro. So, I am begging you guys, if you ever decide to try your hand at this delicious whimsy, find a rotating stand for the base or make one rotate! Yes, that’s it! Remote control rotating cake stand! Is there such a thing? And if not, can I craft one? Ha! Enlisting modern technology to create vintage stuff. A baker’s job ain’t that easy, let me tell you.
On a serious note, the only thing I wished, watching the candle flower slowly opening up to its cheerful looped tune, was for the horses to start merry going round. That would’ve been real magic. At least for her . . . Oh well. I’ll just start engineering a cake for her 6th birthday a tad earlier next year. Like right now.
Recipe for Olga’s Pig Licking Carrousel Cake:
Ingredients and Supplies:
1. 2 quantities Pig Licking Cake batter mix (recipe follows)
2. 1 quantity Pig Licking Cake cool whip frosting (recipe follows)
3. 1 quantity Butter Frosting (recipe follows)
4. blue food coloring gel
5. yellow food coloring gel
6. 1 5-oz. jar pink sugar pearls
7. 4 ounces Baker’s unsweetened chocolate or any good-quality dark chocolate
8. 4 ounces Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate or any good-quality milk chocolate
9. 4 ounces Baker’s white chocolate or any good-quality white chocolate
10. 6 colorful fruit chews (such as Starburst and Jolly Rancher)
11. assorted edible cake tattoos (optional)
12. 2 9-nch round cake pans and 1 8-inch round cake pan, well greased
13. 6 8-inch dowelling rods
14. 1 8-inch cardboard tube
15. assorted ribbons
16. 2 pastry bags, fitted with a star tip and a round tip
17. 1 8-inch round foil-covered cake board
19. 1 round or oval-shaped candle (optional)
1. Start with the horses. You will need to mold two horses from each kind of chocolate.
Melt chocolate according to package directions. With a spoon, immediately fill molds, making sure tops are level. Let molds cool and set completely, at least 3 hours. When set, invert the molds carefully onto plate. Chocolate should slide right out; if it doesn’t, tap gently.
2. To make the saddles and bows for the horses, unwrap a fruit chew and microwave it for 5 seconds to soften. On a clean surface, roll it flat with a rolling pin. Cut the chew into a 1-inch square. Press the square over the horse back to form a saddle. With a sharp knife, cut out a tiny bow from the scraps, using your fingers to shape it up, if necessary. Repeat 5 more times.
3. Wrap a ribbon around each dowelling rod and the cardboard tube and secure the ends with sticky tape.
4. Now for the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make Pig Licking Cake mixture and divide between the prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean – 35-40 minutes for the larger pans and 25-30 minutes for the smaller pan. Let cool completely.
5. While the cakes are cooling, make Cool Whip frosting and tint it yellow with the food coloring gel.
6. To make Butter Frosting, allow ¾ cup butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a very large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in 1/3 cup milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Gradually beat in 6 more cups powdered sugar. Beat in additional milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency. Makes about 4 cups.
Remove 1 cup of the frosting into a separate bowl and tint it blue. Tint the remaining frosting yellow.
7. To assemble the carrousel, put one of the 9-inch cakes on a cake stand. Use a long, serrated knife to level the top of the cake, if necessary. Spread 1/3 of the Cool Whip frosting over the top of the cake, spreading evenly with a palette knife.
Place the second 9-inch cake on top of the first one and spread the remaining Cool Whip frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the sides with edible cake tattoos, if desired.
Place the 8-inch cake on a foil-covered cake board that is lightly smaller than the cake.
Fill the pastry bag fitted with a round tip with the blue Butter Frosting and divide the top of the cake into six sections by drawing a line that’s 1/4-inch wide between them.
Fill the pastry bag fitted with a rose tip with the yellow Butter Frosting and pipe rosettes in the sections over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with pink sugar pearls. Finish with a candle of your choice in the middle.
Fit the pastry bag that has the blue Butter Frosting with a rose tip and pipe more rosettes along the bottom of the cake, alternating the colors. Decorate with more pink sugar pearls.
Push the ribbon-covered cardboard tube into the middle of the bottom cake all the way down to the plate. Arrange the dowelling rods around the edges of the cake at even intervals and push to the bottom of the cake. Rest one chocolate horse against each doweling rod.
Just before you are ready to serve the cake, very carefully place the top cake on top of the dowelling. Serve immediately.
Recipe for Pig Licking Cake:
Ingredients for the batter mix:
1 box yellow cake mix (do not use box directions)
1/2 cup oil
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, not drained
For the icing:
1 3.4-oz. package instant vanilla pudding and pie filling
1 8-oz. carton Cool Whip
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans with butter.
2. In a large bowl combine cake mix, oil, eggs, and mandarin oranges and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool.
4. In a large bowl mix together Cool Whip, vanilla pudding, and pineapple and beat well by hand until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Spread between the two layers and frost the top and sides of the cake.
6. Use fresh tangerine or clementine sections for garnish.
7. Store the cake in the refrigerator.
1. If you are at a loss how to melt chocolate, please click here.
2. For step-by-step photo instructions of how to make Pig Licking Cake and a good laugh, please click here.
4. The key to making fruit chews perfectly pliable without being sticky is to not OVERHEAT them in the microwave. It takes no more than 3 to 5 seconds for them to soften. Make sure you have plenty of these candies on hand for experimenting. Also, I made a cardboard stencil for cutting them into perfect 1” squares.